May 4 (Bloomberg) -- Egyptian security forces broke up a protest near the Defense Ministry in Cairo, leaving 128 injured, as thousands rallied against the violence that killed at least seven in the past week.
Security forces used water cannons and tear gas, and rocks were hurled by both sides. Helicopters hovered over the site and at least 20 tanks were deployed to block the way to the ministry, Al Jazeera reported.
“No to the death of Egyptians at the hands of Egyptians,” read a banner hung by demonstrators in the middle of Tahrir Square, where several marches from across the capital merged. They were mostly organized by the Muslim Brotherhood and the April 6 movement, a largely secular activist group.
The injured were hospitalized for mild wounds, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported. More than 20 soldiers were hurt, Al Jazeera said, citing an unidentified military official.
The past week’s violence, in which unidentified assailants targeted protesters encamped close to the ministry to demand an end to military rule, came as the country prepares for presidential elections due to start on May 23, the first since the toppling of Hosni Mubarak last year.
Several presidential candidates temporarily suspended their campaigns because of the killings. Other groups blamed the military and boycotted a meeting with the ruling generals over the country’s new constitution. Some suggested that the fighting was sparked by supporters of Mubarak.
Hazem Abou Ismail
The April 6 group had called for a march to the headquarters of the Defense Ministry, defying warnings by the ruling army council yesterday. The group said it withdrew from the protests to avoid more deaths, according to an e-mailed statement. The council says it will hand over power after the presidential vote is completed next month.
Many of the demonstrators at the rallies that were attacked earlier this week were supporters of Hazem Abou Ismail, the Salafi lawyer-turned-cleric who was disqualified from the presidential race last month because his mother is a foreign national. His backers said the ban was a politically motivated decision.
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